In 1873 Samuel Griffiths' wonderful book "Griffiths' Guide to the Iron Trade of Great Britain" appeared. The book is by far the best work produced about British iron and steel manufacturing in the late 19th century. Samuel Griffiths was a businessman, a merchant and factor, who drifted into the iron trade, and came to intimately know the industry, and many of the manufacturers.

Griffiths was born in Bilston in 1814. He lived in Wolverhampton from 1849 until 1866, and would have been very familiar with Willenhall and its manufacturers. Whilst in Wolverhampton he began to publish a circular for the iron trade called "Iron Trade Circular".

I have included two descriptions and several adverts from the book. Although the book was published in 1873, the research, which involved extensive travel throughout the country, would have taken several years to complete, and so the descriptions were written sometime in the early 1870s.

After moving to London he continued to publish his  "Iron Trade Circular", until 1873 when it became the "London Iron Trade Exchange". He continued to publish it until his death on the 24th May, 1881.

Willenhall and its Locks and Bolts

Willenhall, the real seat of the lock, door-bolt, and latch manufacturers for the world, is a township in the parish of Wolverhampton, and is connected with it by two lines of railways, viz. the old Grand Junction line, and one recently opened, the Wolverhampton and Walsall line.

Willenhall being just three miles from either town, now contains about 20,000 inhabitants, a complete hive of industry. We believe there are some five to six hundred separate manufactories (of course some only small concerns) of rim, mortice, drawback, dead, cupboard, drawer, box, and pad locks; all kinds of latches and door bolts; currycombs, gridirons, box-iron stands, and skewers; horse scrapers and singers; carpet-bag frames and locks; box corners and clips; keys of all descriptions; and stampers of an endless variety of articles for the gun, steel, toy, and other trades carried on in neighbouring towns.

There are also ironfounders, brassfounders, and wrought Ironworks, blast furnaces and collieries in abundance. To these mainly must be attributed the rapid growth of this industrious town.

The writer can well remember when three to four thousand was the extent of its population. In those happy old days of the past there was one church, with a blaspheming drunken parson, who spent six times more of his time in the public house than in the church, the only one the place possessed.

In those times there was no Methodist or Dissenting resident minister; and what is more, no magistrate, no lawyer, no police, and not an inhabitant (except the parson) but what was engaged in some kind of business.

At the present time the township of Willenhall contains four churches, five Wesleyan chapels, four Baptist chapels, five Methodist chapels of various denominations, and one Roman Catholic chapel, which represents one place of worship for every thousand of the population, a fact few towns can boast of; with good school accommodation, British, National, and Wesleyan, and a literary institute of no mean pretensions, having its reading, recreation, and class rooms, a good lecture hall, and a well-furnished library.

On visiting some of the manufactories of Willenhall, we found the Albion works one of the most prominent, employing some hundreds of work-people.

The business carried on here was established in the last century by the father of one of the present proprietors; and one of the principal branches of the trade, that of door bolts, was extensively carried on by the grandfather of the other more than eighty years ago.

At these works we find manufactured rim, dead, and mortice locks; spring, rim, night, Norfolk, Suffolk, and Lancashire thumb-latches, in various ornamental designs; door-bolts in prodigious quantities.

When in full employ they can produce 120 gross per week of this one article, aided by steam stamps, Nasmith's steam hammer, and steam presses for forming the various parts of the bolt, and piercing the holes in the plates; also pulleys for every conceivable purpose; sash, signal, and sliding doors; hat and coat hooks; door buttons, and black ironfoundery generally.

We also find a large quantity of door-lock knobs, sold principally for export, called 'Harper & Co.'s patent mineral lock furniture.'

At the time we write, they are engaged on orders for nearly 100,000 brackets, made of malleable cast Iron-these are for various telegraph lines, both for home and abroad. In this branch the Messrs. Harper & Co. excel.

Our pen would fail to write the variety of purposes to which the malleable castings are now applied; suffice it to say, their patterns consist of more than three thousand different kinds and sizes.

The largest lock manufactory here, and perhaps one of the oldest, is Carpenter & Tildesley's, well-known in England and all the Colonies for their locks of various kinds, particularly 'rim' locks.

They are the largest lock and curry-comb makers in Willenhall, and employ the greatest number of hands in lock and key making of any house in Willenhall, having especial machinery for this purpose.

This firm stamp their own keys. Mr. James Tildesley is son-in-law to the late Mr. Carpenter, and is the proprietor of these ingenious works. This is a highly respectable firm, and capable of executing orders to any extent of all kinds of locks.

Albion Works.

An advert from 1851.

Carpenter and Tildesley, Lock manufacturers, Summerford Works, Willenhall

As Messrs. Chubbs' is the representative factory in the lock trade in what is known as the 'levered' department, so is that of Messrs. Carpenter & Tildesley in what is known as the 'warded' department, of this important industry. The Summerford Works, situate at Willenhall, midway between Wolverhampton and Walsall, were established by the late Mr. James Carpenter, whose business as a lock manufacturer in the town dates from the year 1795.

Mr. Carpenter was the first to introduce rim iron into the construction of locks, but his name is better known as the inventor and patentee of the perpendicular motion in the working of lock bolts, the use of which has now become almost universal. In the year 1839 Mr. Carpenter took into partnership his son-in-law, Mr. James Tildesley, the present sole representative of the firm, who personally superintends the entire operations of the establishment.

The Summerford Works give employment to 150 pairs of hands, besides' out-workers, and the average production of locks of the rim, dead, drawback, and mortice descriptions, varying in size from 5 in. to 12 in., and in price from 10s. to 100s. per dozen, is something like 250 dozens per week. Of these the greater proportion are exported to the colonial and other foreign markets, where the name of 'Carpenter' in connection with the lock trade has long been familiar as a household word.

An advert from 1851.

A noticeable feature of production is the ‘double-handed' lock, the invention of Mr. Tildesley's son, and which Mr. Tildesley has secured by patent. The principle of this lock is, that it is equally adapted to doors opening to the right or to the left hand, and both the friction of working is reduced, and the shape of the latch bolt is free from the objectionable sharp angles of that in the ordinary lock. The 'double-handed' lock is made both in rim and mortice, and it already commands a very large sale, both in the home and export markets.

Curry-combs to the number of 10,000 per week are also made at the Summerford Works, principally for the United States, continental, and home markets, and a large wood turnery is included in the establishment, door-knobs and curry-comb handles being the leading features of production. Rewards of merit for locks, lock furniture, and currycombs have been awarded to Messrs. Carpenter & Tildesley at the various international exhibitions where examples of their produce have been displayed.

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